A Pakistani Christian family is left searching for answers after their 17-year-old son died following a severe beating by a Muslim classmate.
On their son's third day of high school in Punjab, Pakistan, the parents of Sharoon Masih were told he had been in a fight, had suffered a serious injury, and been taken to the hospital. When they arrived at the hospital, their son was dead, RNS reports.
"The boys from his class who had brought him there told us that he died in the classroom," said his mother, Razia Bibi.
Police said that a Muslim student at the school kicked Sharoon in the stomach because he allegedly broke the screen on his phone, and that he died of internal injuries. While the student charged in his death now awaits trial, police are not calling the attack a hate crime.
However, Christians in the area believe the attack was religiously motivated. Sharoon's parents said the teen endured persecution from the moment he entered the school.
"His teacher, Nazeer Mohal, sent him back home because he was not wearing the proper uniform," his father said. "His mother told me later that evening that Sharoon had told her that the teacher had hit him in front of the whole class and also called him a Chuhra [a derogatory word for Pakistani Christians], among other curse words. She said that he was quite upset at being humiliated in front of the whole class on the very first day of school."
Sharoon skipped school the second day to use money he had earned over the summer to buy a uniform. He returned to school the third day, was attacked, and died.
"I cannot express the agony I went through when I saw my son's dead body lying motionlessly on the hospital stretcher, his new blue shirt covered in dirt and blood," his father said.
Punjab authorities have done little to resolve the situation; Jawaid Tahir Majeed, the equivalent of the police commissioner in the region in which the teenager died, claimed police have interviewed 34 other Christian boys from the school and none have complained of discrimination.
"Most of the time the religion of these boys was not discussed in school and they did not know who was Christian and who was Muslim," he said. "Why did the boy beat Sharoon up so much? What flared the anger?"
Sharoon's father works at a local wood-cutting factory on a meager salary, and had high hopes that his son would earn more, as he was a hard-working student and eager to pursue higher education.
"We had already arranged for him to start as an apprentice at a lawyer's office and study law after he completed high school," said the teen's uncle, Liaquat Masih.
Sharoon's parents say they just want to know what happened to their oldest son and why no one saved him. They have also stopped sending his six other children to school because they fear for their safety.
Pakistan is ranked fourth on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian.
"Protestant Christian communities are under close scrutiny and suffer frequent attacks, especially when they are active in outreach amongst Muslims," nores the report. "Violent persecution is common. Christians are targets for murder, bombings, abduction of women, rape, forced marriages and eviction from home and country. Unjust and arbitrary blasphemy laws are used to punish Christians and prevent evangelism."